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Lewis to get BITE at tennis top two

Justin Marville

Lewis to get BITE at tennis top two

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HAYDN LEWIS figured he’d have to travel the globe to play theworld’s best.
Not so.
Barbados’ top-ranked tennis player will get a crack at two of the world’s top 20 on these shores when he plays both Gael Monfils and John Isner as part of the upcoming Barbados Tennis Pon De Rock 2 exhibition series.
Details of next month’s high-profile festival were announced yesterday by Lewis’ older brother Haydn – a director of organisers Barbados Invitational Tennis Exhibition (BITE) – during a Press conference at the Sugar Hill Resort.
The younger Lewis is set to play the first singles exhibition against the 19th ranked Isner at the gymnasium on December 11, before Monfils and 2009 US Open champ Juan Martin del Potro take the court later that day.
The action then shifts to Sugar Hill a day later, where Lewis faces Monfils in another singles encounter prior to del Potro’s exhibition with Isner.
It will be the second time the local No.1 is being featured at home with tennis’ elite, having appeared in a mixed doubles match with 13-time Grand Slam champ Serena Williams and women’s No.1 Caroline Wozniacki during last year’s series.
But unlike that inaugural exhibition, the 24-year-old Lewis will get a chance to pit his talents against some of the current best of the men’s tour.
“It doesn’t get any better than this for him,” said Kodi of his brother’s chance to play both Isner and Monfils.
“He’s very excited because this is going to be a true gauge of where he is and where he needs to be to compete against the best in the world.”
And the increase of single matches from two to four isn’t the only change to this year’s format, which is also set to introduce a unique Tennis Village surrounding the gymnasium on the opening day.
Food, drinks and other merchandise will be on offer while patrons get the chance to test their skills via a fastest serve competition and a Wii Tennis tournament.
“This year we wanted to incorporate a more social aspect to the event so we created a tennis village, making it more of a lime,” reasoned Kodi.
“We want to provide a more enjoyable, more relaxed atmosphere so that from the time you arrive at the gymnasium you will be in an interactive tennis atmosphere.”
It’s all part of BITE and the Barbados Tourism Authority’s strategy to boost Barbados’ sport tourism product and the country’s image as a possible home for future ATP events.
“This is assisting us in our efforts at diversifying the tourism product offering in Barbados, and to be more specific, the sports tourism product offering,” said Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy.
“The sun, sea and sand aren’t going to do it anymore so we need more sports events and cultural events.”
The exhibition is also being used to garner funds to assist Haydn in his attempts to play more events and to help with the future development of promising juniors such as Darian King.
Ranked 988 in the world, Lewis is currently based in Florida under new Argentine coach Guillermo Rivas, with the hopes of being in the top 400 while making a debut Grand Slam appearance by next year.